Senior year is an incredibly busy time, and there are a lot of considerations to take into account. Namely, classes. Students choose their classes for senior year during junior year and a question we get most often is: “How many AP classes should I take my senior year?” Here we offer one guiding statement about the AP class debacle:
*****You don’t need to take one million AP classes to get into an Ivy League School*****
Yep, it’s a myth. You can still get into Yale having taken just 2 AP classes, and here’s why: colleges don’t look purely at the number of AP classes that you’ve taken in comparison to another random student from another high school. Colleges look at how many AP classes are offered by your school and compare that to what is on your schedule. They are looking at academic rigor and if you are taking advantage of the courses offered. They do this because every school is different, and colleges know and understand this.
TL;DR version: don’t get stressed if your school only offers 3 AP classes and even though you’re taking them all, you’re worried that you won’t get into Georgetown because compared to your friend (who goes to a school that offers a full AP course load) has taken 10 AP classes. It’s not a numbers game, it’s a rigor game which is scaled for your school and the realities of the courses it offers.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk specifics. We’d like to run through some general advice that we give our students. Everyone is different, but here’s what we suggest if you’re:
A STEM student
If you’re interested in going into engineering, science, or math, we feel that it is mandatory that you take any and all math and science-related AP courses. No exceptions. Colleges look to see that students who are pursuing STEM are achieving a higher level of academic rigor and success in math and science, so taking as many math and science AP courses as possible is imperative. If AP Biology, Chemistry, Physics, or Calculus are unavailable at your high school, we can help you self-study and prepare for the AP exam in any of those subjects. In fact, in our experience students that pursue AP courses on their own that are not offered at their high schools are looked upon incredibly favorably by admissions officers.
A B+ student who has taken no AP classes to this point
If you’re a solid student just on the brink of an A-average and are going into your sophomore or junior year with no AP classes on your roster, we’d advise that you take on as many as possible. A lot of our students ask: what is better, taking an AP class that you know you’ll receive a B in, or taking a regular-level class that you know you can secure an A in? Our answer is: take an AP class and achieve an A. We can help you do that, but overall, it’s important at this point in your high school career to step it up and take on some additional academic challenges. We highly encourage students to take the most challenging courses available to them. Even if it’s junior year, it’s not too late.
An undecided A-student
If you’re a student who has a high GPA and is not positive which direction to go in, first of all let us say: that’s completely fine and normal. It’s just as common for students to have no idea where their passions lie as it is for students to have an inkling. What we want to avoid is paralysis and non-commitment—don’t NOT sign up for a science AP class just because you’re not sure that you want to major in something science-related. Remember that AP classes do not necessarily have to indicate an interest or narrow your opportunities to a specific expertise or academic focus. Rather, what succeeding in AP classes show is that you are able to handle and conquer a larger workload and more complex concepts. If English is your thing, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be taking an AP Literature class—just dive in to a class that you think you can handle and achieve a high grade in, and don’t look back. Acquiring more knowledge doesn’t lock you into anything.
These are a few scenarios that we have frequently confronted with our students, but of course everyone is different. As mentioned above, we have also helped students self-teach and study for AP courses and exams in the event that their school didn’t offer a specific AP class. We can help you do that as well. Feel free to reach out to us if you need a quick consult on next year’s classes. We’d be happy to help you figure out your AP schedule.